Tuesday, March 8, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #30

Issue #30 of White Dwarf (April/May 1982) features a very odd cover by Nicholas Bibby. What is that thing? Meanwhile, Ian Livingstone's editorial takes notes of the fact that Dungeons & Dragons is now a very broad brand, encompassing electronic games, video games, coloring books, and possibly a film one day. Livingstone's is neutral in his feelings about this development, whereas I was, at the time, quite enthusiastic about the pop cultural triumph of D&D. Nowadays, I'm a fair bit less excited about all this, but what do I know?

"Androids in Traveller" by Roger E. Moore is a terrific article that focuses on introducing artificial human beings into GDW's science fiction roleplaying game. Moore does an excellent job first of describing these "technologically produced manlike organisms made of organic material" and then contextualizes them within the Third Imperium setting. After that, he provides rules modifications for using them in play, including modifications of the character generation system. It's very done in my opinion and introduces some fascinating possibilities for both roleplaying and scientific speculation. 

Part 2 of Paul Vernon's "Designing a Quasi-Medieval Society for D&D" continues to discuss the economy. This time, his focus is on mercenaries and resources owners, which strike me as a rather odd pairing. As he did in last month's installment, Vernon bores down to the nitty-gritty details of how a town might work in the implied setting of D&D without sacrificing playability. That's why this series has impressed me so far. I've read plenty of articles that have attempted to bring "realism" of one sort or another – social, political, economic, historical – into D&D but did so at the expense of what makes the game fun to play. Vernon does no such thing and his discussion of the economics of hiring mercenaries or dealing merchants and business owners is grounded in "D&D as she is played," to borrow a phrase. While not everyone will care about these topics, for those who do, Vernon has provided plenty of food for thought.

"Unarmed Combat in RuneQuest" by E. Varley is a short article that introduces some new combat skills into the game, namely those pertaining to combat without weapons. Never having used the rules, I can't comment on their actual utility. Based solely on my read of them, they appear straightforward and easy to use. Also related to RuneQuest is "Griselda Gets Her Men" by Oliver Dickinson. This is the second short story of the ne'er-do-wells of New Pavis and it's every bit as good as its predcessor. 

"Open Box" presents multiple reviews, starting with Thieves' World from Chaosium, reviewed by the aforementioned Oliver Dickinson (10 out of 10). Also reviewed are Champions (7 out of 10) and The Island of Doctor Destroyer (8 out of 10). Interestingly, the reviewer, Dave Morris, wonders whether Champions is suitable for long-term play, given the power level of even starting Champions characters. It's an interesting question; not being much of a superhero gamer myself, I have no answer. Yaquinto's Adventurer gets a decent review (8 out of 10), while GDW's Invasion: Earth is given a more lukewarm reception (6 out of 10).

"The Curse of the Wildland" by Phil Masters is an introductory AD&D adventure. Its premise is very straightforward, with the characters enlisted by the leadership of a small village to deal with the titular curse that is wreaking chaos. I'm a sucker for introductory adventure, so I think pretty well of this one, which is nicely done, even if its set-up is something of a cliché. "Ideas for Traveller" by Bob McWilliams is a clever little article. McWilliams asserts that Ttraveller "is essentially a game about life," by which he means that it takes place in a world in which humanity pursues goals that are not all that different from those of today, albeit in a sci-fi context. Consequently, a referee looking for inspiration can turn to almost any everyday situation, book, or film and find it. He then provides multiple examples of how this might work in practice, resulting in a short but nevertheless helpful little article.

"The Apocrypha according to St. Andre" is an article by the creator of Tunnels & Trolls, Ken St. Andre, in which he talks about his own background, the origins of T&T, and his own gaming. He says little that is unknown to long-time fans of St. Andre or T&T but it's nevertheless interesting to peer into the mind of one of the earliest designers of a RPG. St. Andre is quite open and honest about his inspirations and preferences; there's not much artifice or pretense in what he has to say. There's little mythmaking in this article and that's quite refreshing, regardless of whether or not one is a fan of Tunnels & Trolls.

The issue ends with six more D&D monsters in "Fiend Factory." The theme this time is "In Good Company," meaning monsters that are frequently in league with other creatures, such as the stirge demon (which allies with stirges) and a vampire wolf (which allies with vampires). "Treasure Chest" provides six new D&D spells, none of which stand out as notable. That's probably because many are very specific, utility spells like resist electricity, know duration, or hide portal.

White Dwarf is clearly firing on all cylinders at this point. By this point, it's become a very solid magazine with a wide array of excellent content. It's also a superb counterpoint to Dragon, in terms of both its creative voice, which is a bit more "rough around the edges" than TSR's house organ, and in terms of the games it regularly covers. I begin to understand better why partisans of the magazine's early years think so highly of it.


  1. Maybe the cover is the stirge demon?

    I'm not sure if I like the cover or not.

  2. I'm going to guess that's an attempt at a mi-go by the unknown artist, but it could just be some random alien thing. Not a familiar image from a book cover, unlike so many other WD covers.

    I have some strong opinions about the long-term viability of superhero RPGs (Champions or otherwise) but they'd take too long to articulate in full here. Short version, the genre works very differently than (say) D&D when it comes to character growth and development over time, and isn't for everyone.

    As evidence, I present this 420-post campaign diary for a single V&V campaign, which is incredible by any standard:


  3. The cover creature is depicted hunting flying jellyfish. It's a random alien predator that goes with the sci-fi aspect of the magazine.
    As for the longevity of a Champions game, how's twenty years and counting?

  4. Wa-hoo!!!! The one issue where I got something published!!!! (the weresnake was mine :))